Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Hollywood Stupid Tax

In the year 1966 a television show premiered that I absolutely loved. It was called Star Trek and it followed the adventures of humanity going off into unexplored regions. Though the starship Enterprise was the focus of action, they'd show up from time to time at a mining camp or a human colony. And you'd see hearty pioneer stock, like the people I imagined my ancestors were.

When Gene Roddenberry had to do some axe grinding it involved a Kirk and Uhuru interracial smooch. Or the fella with white on one half of his face and black on the other half of his face couldn't play nice with the other fella whose coloration was the opposite. Happily, the ratio of axe grinding to story telling was kept low enough that the show was watchable.

Fast forward three decades and someone in Hollywood gets the idea for a new Star Trek series called "Enterprise" wherein they follow the exploits of an earlier band of explorers. The show was unwatchable because it way too politically correct.

When Star Trek Next Generation came out, interracial smooching was passe and they went on to whatever social issues were current hot buttons. And the axe-grinding to story-telling ratio got cranked way up, too. For crying out loud, they replaced Kirk with a Frenchman! And what'd he do in the first episode, he surrendered.

Political correctness assimilated the Star Trek franchise far more thoroughly than any Borg collective possibly could. Thus, when Enterprise came out, and it depicted a future that was less technically advanced than any of the other Star Trek shows. Nevertheless, it proved to be the more politically correct than any of its predecessors. How could that be? Did Kirk vote for Reagan or something to make the original show less politically correct than Enterprise? It made no sense and I quit watching in disgust.

When I reflected on the death of the Star Trek franchise I came to the conclusion that it was bankrupted by what I call the Hollywood Stupid Tax. Let's suppose you work in the entertainment industry. You vote for Santa Claus in every election. You think gun violence is caused by scary-looking weapons. You think society needs to move "Forward" to embrace the economic theories of the 1930s that worked oh, so well for FDR, Stalin, et al.

News flash: there are bitter clingers who don't think like you do. There are people who recognize that when seconds count, the cops are just minutes away and seek to arm themselves. There are people who go to church and worship as they choose. And they watch television and movies. If you hew just a little more to the center, you can get some of their money.

You don't have to be a Whig like me to enjoy a good story, but you do have to be a Whig like me to enjoy my political blather about how great a candidate Daniel Webster was or how wonderful the planet would be if we gave the Ring of Power to the Whig Party. If you don't agree with my politics, you won't enjoy my axe-grinding nearly as much as my story-telling.

Thus Star Trek Enterprise killed the franchise because it tipped the balance too much toward political correctness and became unwatchable to anyone to the right of Walter Mondale. If lefty propaganda sold, we'd be awash in Russian Tractor Operas. (Boy meets girl. Collective Farm gets new tractor. Boy gets drunk on cheap Vodka. Girl learns she needs him as much as a fish needs a bicycle and lives happily-ever-after driving the tractor.)

Human nature is neither Red nor Blue. Stories that reflect human nature and engage our humanity at that level aren't Republican or Democrat, Socialist or Fascist, Monarchist or whatever. When you write anything that drifts one iota from that, you're paying some stupid-tax with everyone who disagrees with the party-line. In a thousand years, nobody will care about our partisan interests, but they will engage with our narratives at the level of the humanity we put into them.

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